Michael's Reviews > The Collective

The Collective by Don  Lee
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Jul 27, 12

Read in July, 2012

Don Lee's new novel The Collective is an insightful look at the lives of college and post-college friends, the bonds they form and the way those bonds change over time and with maturity. Lee adds an element of race relations by writing about the Asian-American experience from many different angles. Eric, Joshua and Jessica are college friends, the former two budding writers, the latter an artist, who form the group 3AC, a group of Asian-American artists who support each other, party with each other, and sleep with each other as they struggle to further their careers as artists. The book ostensibly revolves around Joshua, whose suicide at the beginning of the book sends Eric onto a journey into his past, trying to understand what might have driven his friend to his final act. It is Eric, however, that we follow, and it is Eric's story that is the more interesting.

With Joshua, Lee has created a pretty unlikable character, and the one place where the novel doesn't work for me is in the attempt of making him relatable. And that is slightly unfair, as I can certainly understand the character and his motivations, but it doesn't make me like him any more. What I have trouble understanding is why Eric remains such a good friend to Joshua for so many years. Yet while I can't understand it, I can believe it, and that's thanks to Lee's taut, insightful writing.

On a local note, Lee sets his novel in Boston and Cambridge, and his use of location is especially appealing for me as someone who frequented many of the same haunts as Lee's characters.
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